Life Drawing

Weeks 1 & 2
13 and 20 January 2014

Never done life drawing before. First session with second years - arrived late so kind of picked things up as I went. Eyes open. Out of my depth, but I like it. Afternoon with first years and a chance to go through some of the basics. I have written comments on my work - hard to see in photos so I will annotate in blog text when I get chance...

Found it really hard to reflect in session on my work. They looked good to me at the time. I was like 'yeah not bad...'

Took them home and put them on the lounge wall. At work I like to plan in time to write and them take time away from it before looking at it again with fresh eyes - allows me to be more objective as if the text was written by someone else. It seems the same applies for me with visual art.

Main things I want to deal with first is measuring and getting to grips with the form of body - Dave's legs are to short on most of these. Truth is I got bored of measuring at the thigh... So need to focus.

Week 3
28 January

Been drawing loads in my sketch book. Practicing measuring and getting my angles right. I've drawn shoulders, arms. Been sketching in coffee shops (got caught - turned out my subject taught art and design in Hull. Need to pick my spot better next time).

Been sketching Ike, Bill, anyone. My neighbour offered to lay on my sofa and let me draw him while he watched MOTD. Here's the result. Was pleased with the proportions, but tried out this brown charcoal. Is unfinished and all a bit skeletal, not in a good way. Will finish it one night.

Sketches this week better. Was pleased with the proportions and I can see the lessons I've learnt in these sketches:
  • Looking at the line of muscles.
  • Drawing negative space to help with the angle of arms and legs in these seated poses. 
  • Measuring across the body as well as verticals and thinking about the weight distribution in the body.

Stuff to work on:
  • More contrast in tone and use of tone
  • Lines are tentative
  • Heads - why do they always come out small?

Week 4
28 January

Drawn lots and lots of feet! Sketched the kids on the computer a few times - only time they sit still.

Been observing peoples faces - how men's ears are lower on the head, position of eyes and nose and mouth. I've reckon the the small head thing was because I was measuring head to chin, but then drawing the head and neck in that space so everything was coming out small.

Have been sketching with more tone and being bolder.

In session we used paint for the first time and encouraged to use fingers and be bold, move about a bit. I really enjoyed working this way and was chuffed with the result at the time, but not had it pinned on the wall yet so I am yet to reflect...

AM session

Both these poses were 10 minutes using fingers to apply paint. I loved working this way - just felt right.

I had about an hour to do this pose. Again used fingers to apply the paint. Of all the work I've done so far, this is my favourite. The leg isn't quite right, but this is the first time I can look at some work I've done and think, yeah I'm proud of that and would have it on my wall.

PM session

With Jon we used chalk on black paper and drew highlights on the body before defining form with pencil. I do find this hard to do, but I can see how it is improving my drawing.

Talked about contouring and shading in a way that makes that enhances muscles and form. I've just been scribbling really until now, which can be good, but I guess this is about refining my practice i bit more.

Next week we are painting in colour. Eak! Going to look at the work of great artists for inspiration so I can tackle task next week with a few ideas.

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud
  • 1922–2011
  • Nationality: British
Lucian Freud is considered one of Europe's greatest modern artists. He painted unsettling portraits and nudes in drab rooms, with peculiar focus on the texture of their flesh.
Freud was the grandson of Sigmund Freud. He moved to Britain from Germany with his family in 1933 to escape persecution as a Jew. He spent most of his working life in London's Paddington, saying that its sleaziness appealed to him.
Freud's early works, like Girl With A White Dog, were very controlled and formal. Over time his style changed and his later painting were mainly nudes, using coarse, layered dabs of paint to create skin texture.
The figures in Freud's paintings often look distant and depressed. However he had a close relationship with his subjects and claimed his pictures are "to do with hope and memory and sensuality". One of his best known paintings, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, was reportedly bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for $33m at auction. This was a record at the time for a living British artist.
Freud provoked public outcry with a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Many people said the painting made her look old and unhappy. The Queen refused to comment.
Some of Freud's portraits of nudes:

Does a life drawing become a nude when you paint it?

Amedeo Modigliani

  • 1884–1920
  • Nationality: Italian
Amedeo Modigliani was one of the most stylish portrait painters of the early 20th Century. He is famous for his portraits of women, with their instantly recognisable long oval faces and almond-shaped, blank eyes.
As a teenager, Modigliani studied Renaissance art in Italy. He only developed his unique style after he moved to Paris in 1906. Soon after he arrived, he destroyed most of his early paintings, dismissing them as childish baubles. He frequently visited the studio of Pablo Picasso, whose primitive forms influenced his own work.
Modigliani mainly painted women, often nude, and repeatedly used his lover, Jeanne H├ębuterne, as a model.
Modigliani suffered ill health throughout his life - made worse by his alcohol and drug addictions. He died in Paris in 1920, aged just 35, penniless and destitute. In great distress, Jeanne committed suicide a day later.
Modigliani is best known for his portraits of Jeanne and his art dealer’s companion Hanka Zborowska. In 2010 La Belle Romaine sold at auction for more than $68.9m.

This work appeals to me. Modigliani's simple composition, subdued colour use, dark backgrounds which make the skin tones glow.

Week 5
4 February

AM session

Argh! Why oh why oh why did I do solid black around this pose. It completely kills the colour, makes it look bad. I think it needed a dark background, but not black. The figure itself I'm pretty proud of. Used mosstly fingers, not brushes. This is the most difficult pose I've done so far. The hands together on the lap with one leg raised was tricky, but I used the lessons of negative space etc helped with this.

PM Session

In the afternoon, Jon set us the task to only use red, green, blue and white on our palette and to only mix new colours on the paper. Again I used my fingers for this. Really tricky, but made me think. Short poses and Jon encouraged us to just go for it, rather than endless measuring. Whilst these are not fabulous, I'm quite pleased with the  general proportions of the figures. I think these show that my drawing has developed a little since the start of term.

Week 6
11 February

Bit of self reflection and realisation. I am a textures girl. I like to feel the paper and the paint under my fingers. When I pick up a brush I suddenly feel clumsy. Am sure this is down to confidence and technique, but an interesting observation about self. Is the same in textiles. I did some printing, and whilst the results were ok, I just wasn't excited about it. I also like to move around when I'm painting. This penny dropped after a life drawing session at home with my friend Luisa. I need to be standing up and able to move - not sat wedged behind a sofa with my knees near my chest.

Dave laying down this week so another new challenge. Both about one hour poses. Not a bad effort for a first time out. I like the chest and stomach. I used my fingers again, but did some of the detail with a brush.

I did a very rough pencil sketch just to measure out the length of limbs, but finished all detail with paint. Very tricky with the knee in front of the torso. I measured it pretty well but confused about why it didn't look right in class.

PM session

Didn't finish this one, but had a good chat with Jon about perspective and how I can make limbs look like they are actually in front or behind others. Close up tone and highlights are stark, further away the distinction between them is more blurred and fuzzy. Think this was achieved on the thighs of this picture and I'll work on this in the next session. I think this would have cured the knee torso thing in the morning session too.

We also talked about perspective and how to anchor this pose on the bed and use perspective to make this happen.


I can see real progress since week one and I am proud of that. I've tried to keep up my sketching and do now carry my sketchbook with me pretty much everywhere. Think I have a hobby for life to be honest. Have already sourced life drawing classes I can go to next year :)

25 February

AM Session

Felt rusty as not had as much chance to sketch over half term. In first sitting I tried to get back into the swing. Bit tentative, but did try and develop feeling of perspective in painting by making contrast more stark on limbs closer to me.


After break we mixed dark grey and used this with white to create a more abstracted figure. No measuring with exaggerated limbs. Enjoyed this. Used a palette knife for the first time to try and add definition of line and colour. I need to practise applying colour and texture as I couldn't get the effects that I wanted, but overall pretty happy with my effort. Without the discipline of measuring I paint in as much freer way.

Work on: Confidence - I look at my efforts and progression and I'm doing OK. So more definite strokes - not going to allow myself to sketch away anymore. Instead I will aim for one definite line. I can do this.

Next week we are going to do an extended pose using same colours but with measuring. Going to look at some artist's work with particular focus on how they deal with foreshortening, perspective in the body and composition. All my paintings look the same in a way. I need to be inspired to do things differently and develop my style.

PM session

Cutting and sticking. Tried out cutting body parts freehand and then sticking these to the paper. Gaps between pieces of paper echo limbs and muscles. Jon showed us a Matisse to give us an idea of what we are aiming for:

Like all clever things it looks so simple, but by trying to do it yourself you realise that it's not! For me this image is about freedom and true observation of the structure of the form - he uses the lines that really matter.

and observation/self crit

A bit of artist research...

Phillip Pearlstein

According to WIki - he 'uses unique cropping and perspective to explore the abstract qualities of nudes. As a young artist in the 1950s, Pearlstein exhibited both abstracts and figures.'

His composition is different. In this one he's chopped the heads and legs off - you can see every detail of their bodies, and this is set against nothing. Clever.

Henri Matisse

The picture below is a Matisse. This is what he says about it: '"The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. The place occupied by the figure or objects, the empty spaces around them, the proportions–everything plays a part.'

I really like this. The way he defines the limbs and deals with foreshortening. Dave says that we are going to do a similar pose to this in class next week. Maybe this would be a good approach. It would also give me a chance to work on legs and knees on a large scale so I can be free with my painting after some careful measuring. Will also have room to practice with the palette knife.

Jenny Saville

This one is fabulous - tone, texture, detail, composition, amazing. I hope the canvas is massive in real life.

I like the way she uses colour - slight changes in tone make the thighs look fleshy and solid. With a cropped composition, you get more chance to really observe flesh and tone.

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